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Oldest American WWII veteran Lawrence Brooks turns 112

FILE -- Lawrence Brooks seen on his 110th birthday. Born in 1909, Brooks served as a support worker in the Army's 91st Engineer Battalion, a majority African-American unit stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines during the war. Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

NEW ORLEANS — The oldest living World War II veteran in the United States has celebrated another birthday in the Big Easy: Lawrence Brooks turned 112 on Sunday.

He spent the day celebrating his century and 12 years of life at his home in Central City, Louisiana where nola.com reports the city gathered for a drive-by celebration hosted by the National World War II museum.

Oldest living World War II veteran: Lawrence Brooks

Brooks, born in 1909, served in the Army’s 91st Engineer Battalion, a majority African-American unit stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines during the war as a support worker. During his time in the service, he reached the rank of private first class.

The National World War II museum has been the host to Brooks’ birthday for the last few years, but for the last two celebrations over the course of the pandemic, they’ve brought the party to him. 

This year, WDSU reported the advice he gave to those gathered, “Serve God and be nice to people.”

 

The Department of Veteran Affairs shared that while Brooks did not directly serve in a combat role, while on a C-47 cargo plane transporting wire from Australia to New Guinea one of the engines on the plane failed. 

Brooks said he quickly started dumping cargo out of the plane when he realized he would not have a parachute. 

“There was the pilot, the co-pilot and me and just two parachutes,” he said in an oral history. “‘If we have to jump, I [was] going to grab one of them.’”

 

According to estimates, there are about 250,000 American WWII Veterans that are still alive of the 16 million who served. The National World War II Museum says nearly 300 pass away each day. 

In Louisiana, where Brooks lives, there are an estimated 4,402 living WWII Vets. In Utah, that number is 2,105.

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